November 8, 1975 is a very important day in Wolverine Football History because it is the day that Michigan’s 100K attendance streak began at Michigan Stadium. Yes, it was a special day in the history of Michigan Football and The Big House! Although Don Canham didn’t know it the time, Michigan Stadium was about to be filled to capacity, for the next forty-three years!
(Note-Michigan Stadium was full when Purdue came to Ann Arbor in November 1975 and it has been full ever since! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
For some people, it was just another football game at Michigan Stadium. For others it was just another Ho Hum win over an overmatched Big Ten team. Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines had been tearing up the Big Ten for the first four years of the Seventies. Yes, it was a great time to be a Michigan Wolverine fan.
What happened that day didn’t seem like a BIG deal. Sixth-ranked Michigan defeated Purdue by a score of 28-0, but that was expected. The win pushed Michigan’s season record to 7-0-2. The attendance for the game was 102,415. It was the first time that a Michigan Football team had ever played in front of three 100K crowds in the same season.
Michigan went on the road the next week and defeated Illinois by a score of 21-15. Unfortunately, Michigan’s unbeaten streak came to an end when they lost to the Buckeyes 14-21. However, there was some good news that came out of the game. Attendance exceeded 100K for the second straight home game with a record crowd of 105,543. It was the first time that a Michigan Football team played in front of four 100K crowds. So, Michigan’s 100K attendance streak now stood at two consecutive games. Don Canham didn’t know it, but “The Streak” was really on!
The ambitious Don Canham worked extremely hard for nine years to fill Michigan Stadium for every game. He did it because he needed the money! When Canham took over at Michigan, average attendance for the 1967 season was 74,548 fans per game. That seemed like a lot of people for the time, but a 73.8 percent attendance rate was not enough to pay the bills! Canham believed that every empty seat at a Michigan Football game was money left on the table. Don Canham was a business-man who knew he had to get things turned around,. If he didn’t, things would get ugly in the Michigan Athletic Department.
Mr. Canham implemented an aggressive marketing program that included direct mailing, advertising in Sports Illustrated , and airplane flyovers at the 1968 World Series! Yes, he knew how to sell tickets! Canham also made changes, lots of changes, to put the Wolverine Athletic Department in a better financial position. One of his biggest changes came when he asked Bump Elliott to go from Head Football Coach to Assistant Athletic Director.
Canham literally, “bet the farm” on a guy named Glenn Edward Schembechler in December 1968. If you look at the numbers below, you will see that it took ten – long – years for Canham to realize his dream. If you look at the “wins and losses” you will see that Bo Schembechler won at an incredible rate. Yes, he built a winning team that more and more people wanted to see in person. However, despite all the winning, Michigan Stadium wasn’t full for every game. Don Canham kept working and Bo kept winning and eventually it happened.
|Year||Games||W-L-T||Total Attendance||Average Attendance||% Capacity|
So, November 8, 1975 was the first game of “The Streak” that only reached two games in 1975. The real test came in 1976 when Canham achieved his ultimate goal. The 1976 season, which was the 97th in Michigan Football History, was the first season that the Michigan Wolverines played in front of a capacity crowd of 100K (or more) for every home game.
Of course, Michigan played in front of another crowd of over 110,000 on Saturday, October 26, 2019. “The Streak” now stands at 291 games with two more home games remaining. Yes, I’m certain that at least 100,000 fans will show up for the Michigan State and Ohio State games this month. I am also extremely confident that Michigan’s amazing streak will reach 293 consecutive games by the end of the 2019 football season. Wow – what an amazing record!
Don Canham worked extremely hard to get “The Streak” going and Bo Schembechler coached like crazy to re-build Michigan’s winning tradition. Now, 44 years later, “The Streak” is alive and well. Thanks to Don Canham and Bo Schembechler and thank you Michigan Nation for the greatest attendance streak in the history of college football – Go Blue!
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